Below is the 2nd of 11 Novarica Research Council Impact Award nominee case studies, which INN is presenting in no particular order. The awards will be presented at the research and advisory firm’s August 13th event in New York and honor best practices in insurance industry IT initiatives and strategy.
After replacing its core systems and infrastructure while expanding into new states, Brickstreet Mutual wasn’t able to realize the promised savings in costs or efficiencies, and senior business leaders were getting increasingly frustrated with IT.
In order to improve the relationship between business and IT, and specifically IT’s credibility, the provider of worker’s compensation insurance adopted an agile methodology, with a focus on transparency, collaboration and quick-hit deliverables.
Brickstreet Mutual required business leaders to take ownership of projects and to be accountable for requested work. As a result, they became active collaborators in any project. The company also instituted a three-tiered steering team to govern each project that consisted of a subject matter expert team, a strategy and planning team and the senior executive team.
By putting the responsibility on business teams to prioritize their requests, the company has changed its internal vocabulary, turning “IT projects” into “business projects,”
The entire IT staff of 45 people at Brickstreet was involved in the adoption of these new processes, as well as teams from the core systems vendor, enterprise document management systems vendor and infrastructure vendors.
It took about six months to establish the core practices and another three months to refine and adjust them to the specific needs of the company.
Initially, there was resistance to the time commitment required of the business staff to support collaborative agile development. IT was able to overcome this resistance by demonstrating an ability to deliver quickly for those business units that adopted agile.
This created internal demand and drove wider adoption. Adopting an agile methodology has resulted in a 20 percent increase in IT productivity and a 90 percent improvement in responsiveness. Project backlog also was decreased by more than 40 percent, and IT’s credibility within the organization improved.
Brickstreet cites the productivity gains as key factors that enabled it to support the transformation from a single-state/single-company carrier to a multi-state/multi-company carrier. The commitment of the executive team was critical in driving adoption throughout the organization.
In his own words, Tony Laska, CIO at Brickstreet, shares lessons learned from this project.
It’s a normal process for IT, but it’s a bureaucratic process for the business teams. Proving its value is a hard lesson to be learned. Organizational buy in is an imperative.
It's a shared accountability that can be assigned to a business owner with strong project manager and/or business analyst support. Letting the business run the projects will get you buy in to the project and improve the IT credibility as the business user experiences all the challenges with managing a project.
Wants always exceed the existing staffing levels. Making the project the organization's No. 1 priority forces the business teams to dedicate resources. Dedicated business resources ensure project ownership but strain the organization because the daily operations still need to be completed.
As no technology is ever implemented “out of the box,” customization is going to happen. Minimizing customization is difficult to accomplish even with strong project management and change management controls. Customization of the technology is a short-term win with longer-term cost concerns.
What would you do differently?
Put more ownership and accountability on the business owners and the business resources by not allowing the IT staff to cover for them when tasks are late. Use the project management process to call out late or missed tasks. Figure out how to sustain the project as a business initiative not an IT initiative. I believe this can happen by getting the ownership and accountability back to the business.
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